local to local

Daily observations at or near Two Dot Spot, written by hand on the backs of postcards that record with ink and coffee a few minutes of the earth's orbit around the sun. The cards are physically mailed from Two Dot, Montana to those who have requested them...local to local. Ruth Marie Tomlinson


A night full of worry over transition, over being neither here nor there; dreams often being the field in which we play out the underworld, the world too hard to face waking. I recently read about the intervals of darkness used in film making that allow us to transition. Without the darkness there would only be a blur. So I am seeing the light of this nearly cloudless Montana day because of the darkness of night, and will find my way back to Seattle because of the space in between.


We slept under the particular Two Dot sky for the last time this summer. I got up in the night and stood at my window to see the big dipper resting on its handle nearly touching the northern horizon, its ladle brimming full and about to spill over.


Cloud cover is accumulating fast so we can't stay long, but we did reach Daisy Peak (7759 ft elev) on our own power, hiking up the back side. "It is steep," everyone said, and they were right. We took an hour to walk just over a mile. But here we are with Dad, leaving him a couple of rock stacks and an all black feather found here on the peak. A quick kiss on his marker left the mark of my mouth for just a moment.


We drove to the Vestal Place in the afternoon turning off Haymaker Road, driving over the bluff to drop into the Haymaker Creek valley, where the water hasn't run in 20 years. Richard said it recently trickled into the creek bed at the edge of the property. Upstream at the narrows the stream runs strong, this the second wet year after drought. Maybe next year the water will run a little further.


We work at neglected projects in our last days: fencing the hedge from the ravages of rabbits and rutting deer, painting the foyer, scrubbing the floor. Why didn't we do these things earlier? In the words of my summer mentor, Rebecca Solnit, we surrendered to the story line rather than trying to tell the story ourselves. So the last chapter of summer writes itself and we find ourselves in the work of finishing.


Every summer an author captures my studio. This summer Rebecca Solnit hums in the quiet. Solitude in the city is about the lack of other people or rather their distance beyond a door or wall, but in remote places it isn't an absence but the presence of something else, a kind of humming silence in which solitude seems as natural to your species as to any other. RS


The second of a pair of raining days. Good for ranchers...too much like the Pacific Northwest for me... constant wet. Finally in the evening a nearly total clearing. We stood on wet grass around a fire telling stories as the stars winked into view one by one.


It is raining as if it were Seattle. The rabbit is hiding under the merry-go-round with its ears flat and Jessica is hiding in her tent in the basement.


Total stars all night, and at 4 am only starting to fade at the edges of the sky... the center still punctured dramatically with more stars than a metaphor can describe. We slept outside, lying flat to the earth with our eyes to the heavens until the morning sun caused us to quit.


...it wasn't particular things, but the space in between them, that abundance of absence, that is the deserts invitation. Rebecca Solnit's desert invitation is engraved on the Montana prairie as well.


We went walking just as dusk gave way to dark. Deep bruising clouds in the distance occasionally illuminated by lightning veins, but the thunder report was long in coming and the air was still. We kept walking...not far, but nearly to the bridge. A ruffle of wind around the ears suggested it was time to turn back. And just in the act of turning our bodies toward home, the wind gained force and a drop of rain hit the back of my neck. All down Wilson street our pace picked up matching the increasing wind speed. Cutting through the old fire hall yard to save a minute and working toward a trot on 2nd street the purple clouds at our heels the wind pushing branches stiffly east. Lightning flashed behind us, but when it flashed in front we each took our own pace and ran for the school house door. Nothing dearer than escaped danger.


The smear of lipstick magenta just at the horizon preceding sun up... a trace of cirrus cloud whispering at thirty thousand feet... the chewed edge of an alfalfa leaf in the front yard matching a cottontail's incisors, all parts of the picture.


The imprint of Elizabeth's body is still in the dry stubble of my lawn left from her afternoon of nursing a headache; as is a stretch in the hammock ropes that held Elizabeth's Jim as he delinquently read his book. There are drips and splashes still on the kitchen floor left from Lynnette's preparations of my birthday dinner, some drips replaced by Rafie's lick marks... evidence of Lynnette's way with dogs. Two small rocks are still in the yard, left from holding down John's music as he played the accordion for me. Small traces only detectable by me; songs sung in my own language.


The only thing we leave behind is thought. Henry Real Bird


The sky filled over as I drove home just before nine. Once inside the schoolhouse a lightning storm filled the sky completely with sheets of light at least every ten seconds... each window an illuminated square, the hills silhouetted beyond the yard, and fields in full full view. I wanted to stay awake and watch, but betrayed by tiredness slept under flashes.


I was tempted to look online for weather conditions and yet, I have just been outside and know the sky is open except for haziness at the horizon. It is still cool, but there is no breeze so it may get hot later. That exhausts my ability to assess, but is really all I need to know.


Complete overcast and very little sound, a slight breeze encouraging small clangs from the handle-less chains of the giant stride...nothing giant about it.


It was to be a day of writing and nothing was written. But Rebecca Solnit points out that the reason country is deeper than rock is because failure is deeper than success. We learn from failure.


Some days there is nothing to write about beyond the few wisps of clouds that barely interrupt a blue dome of sky overhead and their companion tremors of wind that only just brush through prairie grass below.


When we left for town, cumulus clouds were accumulating in a clear blue sky, puffy and white. By the time we got back, the sky was covered. A quick squall, rain and wind, a little thunder and lightning. Everything always changing.


I took Arthur, Mackenzie, and Lindsey to see the coyotes...dead...displayed. Arthur wondered if the wrong could be righted by making artwork of the disrespect. McKenzie snapped pictures while Lindsey and I looked out the other window.


There is such a quietness in Two Dot just now... perhaps because the birds are done mating and the meadowlarks aren't singing much. Flies and bees buzz, but their industry inspiring laziness where as birdsong inspires work. The time of birds giving way to the time of insects.


The pelicans are swooping in and out of Two Dot this morning...Mac's field, the river. Richard calls them the "dive bomb squad...eating his fish out of his river." But they are a site to see. It is all in the perspective.


Half empty or half full? Or ninety percent empty/ninety percent full...like today's sky; already experiencing each by 10am. But... is the sky full then empty of clouds, or empty then full of sun?


Back again. Early in the morning I heard the sandhill cranes, but the meadow larks seem to be gone, a few magpies taking their place. It has been very very quiet. The sky has been full of beautiful clouds, but they block the sun's directness. This afternoon, just enough light in the kitchen to manage this card.

the cards we are dealt

Time away from Two Dot marked here in the cards.


John wrapped his arms around me when we got into bed last night. "We've done a good thing here," he said with an emotion squeezed voice...admitting he was humble and proud.


A V of white pelicans flew over the yard about 6:30 this morning. I saw them from my bed, their V scraping across the expanse of both window panes. Independence day.


Parade and rodeo day, all Harlo dressed out. Rhinestone belts, muddy boots and beer on the street corners. It will be another year before this happens again.


Full sun...a few scattered clouds. Meadowlarks, sandhill cranes, magpies and what might be vespar sparrows, rabbits in the yard, cows in the field and dogs in the backs of pick-ups. Yesterday morning was brilliant followed by an afternoon storm. We worked in the schoolhouse with lights blazing and old school cassette music. No where to go with the car a drenching away.


the weather comes and goes...brilliant blue with white puffs...gathering darkness threatens and looms...sometimes lighting punctuates the sky with explosion following. Yesterday a light flash came with an audible crackle and its booming report close enough to cause excitement in the schoolhouse.


Delores Olson is raising pheasant chicks because a neighbor ran over the hen. there were 18 eggs recovered. Delores took them on, keeping them in a chicken incubator. All but two hatched. She's feeding them turkey scratch and will keep them until it runs out, hopefully 6 weeks when they should be strong enough to fend for themselves. She's only lost one chick. they are beautifully spotted and lively.


A very wet spring has left the Eastern Montana hills and prairies brilliant green. The rivers all crested high and here in Two Dot flowed into ditches, pastures and basements. Now the water is receding leaving mud soaked grass and mosquitoes...summer.


6:20 am, full sun with light patches on the wall and floor. Last night when we drove home a huge complete circle moon sat on the horizon and now, waking up with John.


Green '46 Chevy pick-up. Ben in his town clothes and white hat was greeted as a local and happy to tell the story of his ranch truck...purchased by his father new. Later the two of them re-built the engine. Ben stood in front of the front grill with the hood open while other "classic" car owners wandered. He always had a group of other ranchers gathered talking and laughing.


A hazy day squeaking out only enough direct light for this one card, matching my one and only focus...picking up John at the airport to celebrate 38 years together.


begin again
again yet
full circle
circle back
back again


The wind took a small limb from the cottonwood. I left it at the front door to think what to do with it...wanting each loss to find a purpose or use. It remained there for days untouched until one morning I discovered every leaf eaten from its branches. A night visitation. I hadn't seen deer in the yard, but the next dusk there was a pair of velvet antlers bending to tender leaves just out my window.


An afternoon rainstorm momentarily held me in glass sheets of water, then thundering hail. The distant blue horizon was lost to view, ceasing to be a locator and definition of place.


First day of summer...Wild iris bloom in the ditch, antelope are flushed out inadvertently from the fence line in such a ruffle and squawk that no markings can be made out for identification.